BIRKBY, James (1557-1610), of York.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

1st s. of James Birkby of York. m. (1) Beatrix or Beatrice, da. of John Copley of Batley by Margaret, da. of Sir Bryan Stapleton of Wighill, 1s. 2da.; (2) Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Lowe, alderman of London.

Offices Held

Freeman, York c.1561, sheriff 1571-2, alderman 1585, ld. mayor 1588-9, 1596-7; prothonotary at York.


Birkby may have been the son of Alyce Byrkebye, widow, who died in March or April 1562 at Dewsbury, West Riding, for he later bought extensive properties there and he called his younger daughter Alice; she married Henry Hall. Birkby himself was an attorney who practised in the court of the council in the north, and played an active part in civic affairs from the early 1570s. Both before and after his time as sheriff of York, Birkby, like his father before him, was the sheriff’s clerk, so that for many years he was closely connected with the work of the sheriff, riding with him and reading his proclamations. He refused to be sworn alderman in 1581 and was committed to ward; on 18 Jan. he paid £100 to be excused from taking the office.

Birkby was named to only one Commons committee, concerning the export of corn (8 Dec. 1597). However, the Members for York were appointed to numerous committees in both Parliaments, concerning cloth (14 Mar.), executions of process (15 Mar.), kerseys (23 Mar.), weirs (23 Mar.), maimed soldiers and mariners (2 Apr.) and spinners and weavers (3 Apr.); and in 1597 to committees concerned with forestallers (7 Nov.), maltsters (9 Nov., 7 Dec., 12 Jan. 1598), monopolies (to Nov.), navigation (12 Nov.), cloth (18 Nov.), mariners (9 Dec.), Exeter merchants (12 Dec.) and wine casks (3 Feb. 1598). It was after his election as Member for the city in 1597 that Birkby ‘alleged that he being old and unwieldy could not ride with less than two men, one to help him and wait upon him in his chamber and another to look to his horse’.

Between 1565 and 1585, Birkby purchased a number of properties in York and the West Riding of Yorkshire. In 1590 he contributed £20 to the Queen’s loan and he was able to send his only son Alvery, to Christ’s College Cambridge, Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn. He died on 8 Mar. 1610, making Alvery his sole executor. Birkby held over 550 acres of land. He left an annuity of £8 to his elder daughter Jane, and legacies to Henry, Margaret and Elizabeth, the children of his second daughter Alice, and to other relatives. He also provided for two poor children who were in his care, and left £8 to the poor of the city.

York City Lib., Skaife mss; Paver, Peds. York Fams. 11; Glover, Vis. Yorks. 1584-5, p. 496; York Freemen (Surtees Soc. cii), 2, 29; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 117; D’Ewes, 501, 507, 512, 513, 514, 552, 554, 555, 556, 558, 569, 570, 571, 578, 592; York house bks. 31, f. 298; York Wills (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xiv), 28; York Civic Recs. passim; J. J. Cartwright, Chapters in Yorks. Hist. 373; Al Cant. 157; York wills, 31/267.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Authors: N.M.S. / P. W. Hasler